Limerick ‘says no’ to water charges at national protest

David Hurley in Dubl

Reporter:

David Hurley in Dubl

'No way, we won't pay': A section of the more than 500 Limerick people estimated to have been in Dublin for the demonstration
HUNDREDS of water charge protestors from all parts of Limerick were in Dublin this Wednesday as anger continued to rise over the hated tax.

HUNDREDS of water charge protestors from all parts of Limerick were in Dublin this Wednesday as anger continued to rise over the hated tax.

At least 500 people from across Limerick joined the tens of thousands of people who converged on the Dail this Wednesday at the Right2Water organised protest against the charges, which come into force in the New Year.

Early on Wednesday morning, four coachloads of people left from the Parkway Shopping Centre on buses laid on by the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA).

Others came by train - many of whom pensioners using their free travel passes - and hordes of people from West Limerick travelled with groups from Kerry.

This is in spite of bitter conditions in the capital as the cold snap continued.

They included local AAA politicians Cian Prendiville, John Loftus and Paul Keller, and former mayor of Limerick Cllr John Gilligan, who said: “Irish Water is dead and buried after today”.

They were joined by Sinn Fein councillors Seamus Browne and Malachy McCreesh.

Mature student Tracey Quinn from Ballysheedy said: “Austerity has been directed at the most vulnerable in our society, and almost 30% of our children are living in poverty.”

Unemployed mother of one Marie Halligan from Oola said: “We’ve already paid for water through taxes and I don’t believe in the privatisation of something as necessary to life as water - we can’t live without it, and people will die if these charges are imposed because they will be afraid to use water”.

The crowd waved red cards to show their opposition to the charges, as chants of ‘No way, we won’t pay’, and ‘Not a penny for Enda Kenny’ rang out, while there was also other live entertainment.

Peggy Frahill, 50, a part-time family support worker from the Old Cratloe Road said: “It is not just about the water anymore. I’m fighting for democracy because we do not have it in Ireland anymore. I want to thank Enda Kenny and Irish Water for opening my eyes up to the corruption and cronyism that has been going on here for the last few years. My mother and father fought for this country, and we got out and worked for a good future for our children. But what have we got? Only debt.”

Templeglantine man Christy Kelly, who contested the local elections in May on an anti-austerity platform, said: “People think this [water charges] is the wend, but there is more to come. There is going to be compulsory health insurance probably, compulsory pensions. It’s only a joke really, because its only getting people reigned in and its [the charges] going to escalate again after a few years.

The minister in charge of Irish Water Alan Kelly declared on Wednesday that water charges were here to stay.

But AAA councillor Prendiville said former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher made a similar declaration in the weeks leading to the abolition of the equally controversial Poll Tax in 1990.

“If this government thought we had gone away, this is their answer. The numbers here are as strong as they have ever been, and the mood is even stronger, and people are now saying this is not just about water. People want this government out, and they want them to take their water charges with them,” Cllr Prendiville told the Limerick Leader.

Members of the protest group, the Detroit Water Brigade were in attendance at the rally.

And there was also an American influence from Limerick, as Danny de Vito’s cousin Roma, now living in Thomondgate, also came.

“The momentum and energy is incredible. There is no way we are going to pay. It is just not going to happen. We are all prepared to go to jail over this. It may not be abolished now, but it will be soon. I think the majority will not pay when the bills come out,” Roma predicted.

Her friend Mary Honan, of St Lawrence Park was interviewed by Broadford-born journalist Vincent Browne, and she had hopes she will appear on his flagship news show on TV3 on Wednesday night.

However, she expressed her disappointment there were no Limerick people on stage.

“I am appalled Sinn Fein were right at the front. Up to now, they have been pretty benign at the protests. But they were right at the front today, and Gerry Adams made a speech. Apart from that, there was nobody from anywhere outside of Dublin who got to make a speech. Every county should have had a speaker there,” she said.

Bill Kelly believes a “tipping point” has been reached.

Speaking from Merrion Square Bill, who travelled with a group of friends, said: “It is a carnival. They have interspersed the speakers with a lot of music. It is infectious.”

The Gardai suggested over 30,000 people turned up to the rally, while the organisers from Right2water - a coalition including the Mandate trade union - put the figure at closer to 100,000.

Whatever the attendance, Independent councillor Gilligan - who campaigned against charges in the early 1990s - said: “I am proud to say Limerick people are here in their droves. All the senior citizens availed of their free travel passes to tell Enda he can p*ss off with his Irish Water”.

Another protest is planned for Dublin on January 31, while in Limerick, there will be an increase in the campaign for mass non-payment.

Many people from across Limerick did not wish to comment, or be photographed as they called in sick to work so they could head for Dublin.

Demonstrators were expected to return to Limerick at around 9pm on Wednesday night.